California’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.
Unlike those components of California’s surface water storage and delivery system, groundwater is out of sight underground and most people are not familiar with the facilities that provide groundwater – wells.
Water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Water tables have been falling in many regions for decades, particularly in areas with intensive agriculture. Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water wells to support irrigated agriculture.
Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the valley who already obtain much of their water from the river via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley, Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re all working together to advance the agenda of the Central Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump administration put forward on water.”
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10 Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and plenty of water to boot.
One in seven Americans drink from private wells, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Nitrate concentrations rose significantly in 21% of regions where USGS researchers tested groundwater from 2002 through 2012, compared with the 13 prior years. … “The worst-kept secret is how vulnerable private wells are to agricultural runoff,” says David Cwiertny, director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination.
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for the coming year.
With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed bills also would appropriate $35 million and tweak existing legislation to make the plan work.
Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes will vote Saturday, Jan. 19 on a proposed ordinance to allow for the lease of a portion of the Tribes’ Colorado River water allocation to outside interests. The issue of leasing Tribal water rights has become a contentious issue among Tribal members. Opponents claim this compromises the Tribes’ resources, while supporters point to the economic benefits.
The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s most important positions regarding state water policy. One of Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this week.
Land subsidence from overpumping of San Joaquin Valley groundwater sank portions of the Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that help fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy. A plan to fix it helped sink the $8.8 billion Proposition 3 bond measure last November. Now San Joaquin Valley water managers are trying to figure out another way to restore the canal, not only to keep farmers farming, but to aid the valley’s overtaxed groundwater aquifers. By Gary Pitzer in Western Water.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been hashing out for months.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently, the city partially relies on imported water to meet its water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major step toward water independence, supporting existing programs designed to create a sustainable water supply
Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S. are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs left depleted at the end of 2018.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over $100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water wells to support irrigated agriculture. Groundwater supplies around the world are being threatened by excessive pumping, but drilling deeper wells is not a long-term solution. A better solution is to manage water use and avoid excessive declines in groundwater levels.
Specific details have not yet emerged on Newsom’s plan, but it’s expected to be similar to a rejected 2018 proposal from state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, to tax residential customers 95 cents a month to help fund water improvements in rural farming communities in the Central Valley and throughout the state. It would raise about $110 million to get clean water to what the McClatchy News Service estimated last year to be 360,000 people without such access. Others looking at the problem see it as much worse.
A section of the museum will also be dedicated to water, teaching visitors how much water it takes to grow crops, how California farmers lead the world in conservation, and how the state’s complicated water storage and delivery system works, said Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. The Coalition is the title sponsor for the exhibits and has drawn on several farming organizations, including Farm Credit, to help build and maintain the exhibits.
You can now register for our full slate of water tours for 2019, including a new tour along California’s Central Coast to view a river’s restoration following a major dam removal, check out efforts to desalt ocean water, recycle wastewater and manage groundwater and seawater intrusion.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, if he is to successfully steer the state into the future, has to bring to his water agenda the same steely-eyed, reality-based drive that the two previous governors brought to limiting carbon emissions. It is time for the state to respond to its water challenge with the same sense of urgency with which it adopted Assembly Bill 32, the landmark law capping greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006.
A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program, allowing federal agencies to clean up sites contaminated by harmful fluorinated compounds. Health officials have said continued exposure to certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm human health. Studies link exposure to developmental effects on fetuses, cancer and liver and immunity function, among other issues.
California’s failure to provide safe, affordable drinking water to the remaining roughly 1% of residents is probably the most solvable and affordable of California’s many difficult water problems. There will always be isolated small systems with vexing problems, but the number of Californians currently without access to safe affordable drinking water is embarrassing and irresponsibly high.
There is plenty of water on Mars, but it’s frozen, locked in water-rich minerals, tucked away below the surface — or a combination of those challenges, which is why we still don’t know where it all is. That’s a problem for Rick Davis, assistant director for science and exploration in the planetary science division at NASA, because he is heading the agency’s project to evaluate potential human base sites on the Red Planet.
When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm, the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. He and his son, Mike, manage the business, and they hope to pass it on to the next generation of Seleys. But the farms of Borrego Springs, like the town and its golf courses, rely completely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer. And it’s unclear whether farming will be able to survive in this part of the Southern California desert west of the Salton Sea in San Diego County.
A day after proposing a tax on drinking water, Gov. Gavin Newsom took a “surprise” road trip to meet with Stanislaus County residents in a community known for having unsafe wells. Newsom and his cabinet made their first stop at the Monterey Park Tract in Ceres, where he held a roundtable discussion with people who for years had to use bottled water for drinking and cooking because their community’s two wells were long-contaminated with nitrates and arsenic.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter. Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can see it right now.”
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12 that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region, four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists, water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
Cloud seeding has existed for decades, and has significant traction in other western states such as California, Idaho and Wyoming. Colorado has only recently joined the cloud seeding game as the state’s snowpack has declined and the Colorado River runs dry.
Saying it will continue to protect environmentally sensitive waterways such as wetlands in California, even if federal protections on waters of the U.S. are limited, the State Water Resources Control Board has unveiled a final draft on how it plans to regulate dredge-and-fill activities in the state.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes over as governor, the state of water in California seems as unsettled as ever.
The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent. It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater could be used to recycle water. However, making these improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100 agencies.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
The announcement finalizes prioritization of 458 basins, identifying 56 that are required to create groundwater sustainability plans under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. For most basins, the results are a confirmation of prioritizations established in 2015. Fifty-nine basins remain under review with final prioritization expected in late spring.
If you live on the West Coast, you may hear the term “atmospheric river” thrown around. These massive, fast-moving storm systems can transport more than 25 times the moisture as flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River.
At issue is the proper interpretation of the law’s central provision barring the discharge of “any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source” without a permit. The term navigable waters, broadly defined as “waters of the United States,” does not generally include groundwater.
As more people build homes in fire-prone areas, and as climate change and other factors increase the frequency of fires, there is a growing risk to life and property throughout the West — and a lesser known risk to the region’s already endangered water supply. At least 65 percent of the public water supply in the Western U.S. comes from fire-prone areas.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to protect cities and towns.
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of climate change. This year, due to the partial federal government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges. Catch up on these stories and more in Western Water Year in Review.
Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a scoping report on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development on approximately 400,000 acres of BLM-administered public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate lands on tribal and privately held lands in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.
Some drinking-water wells on the northeast side of Madera are being idled or abandoned because of fluctuating water levels and significant plumes of groundwater contamination by the agricultural chemical DBCP, a powerful pesticide suspected to cause sterility and cancer.
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater Congress, a panel of experts discussed emerging issues as agencies work to develop their plans to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in California in 2014.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better, largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the water supply.
The USDA estimates gross cash receipts for the dairy industry to be down 9 percent from the previous year but estimates poultry receipts to be 7 percent higher. After several years of strong production, gross receipts for tree fruit and nuts are expected to be slightly lower. Likewise, vegetable gross receipts are expected to be down slightly, though consumption remains stable.
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
When a severe drought enveloped California a few years ago and rivers shriveled, farmers in the Central Valley punched wells deeper underground, seeking to tap water reserves that were untouched by aridity on the surface. In Arizona today, as officials finalize a multi-state plan to keep more water in a shrinking Lake Mead, some farmers in Pinal County will transition from imported Colorado River water to local groundwater.
This 2-day, 1-night tour offers participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
The California Supreme Court will weigh in on whether environmental review is required for each new water well project. The issue of groundwater extraction heightened during California’s prolonged drought.
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Plans to boost clean energy production could have catastrophic impacts on this resort town [Mammoth Lakes] known for world-class ski runs and stunning scenery. At least that’s what Pat Hayes, the area’s water manager, wants you to think. Hayes has launched a million-dollar fight against Ormat Technologies Inc.’s bid to double production at a nearby geothermal plant.
PUMPING NEAR SCOTT RIVER IN SISKIYOU COUNTY SPARKS APPELLATE CASE THAT EXTENDS PUBLIC TRUST TO SOME GROUNDWATER; EXPLORE MAPS AND GUIDES TO LEARN MORE
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling forced Los Angeles to reduce its take of water from Eastern Sierra creeks that fed Mono Lake. It marked a dramatic shift in California water law by extending the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that fed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves are not. Some 35 years later, an appellate court in Sacramento for the first time has concluded that the same public trust doctrine used in the Mono Lake decision also applies to groundwater feeding the navigable Scott River in a picturesque corner of far Northern California.
Excessive groundwater pumping by San Joaquin Valley farmers has caused a stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal to sink so much that it has interfered with irrigation deliveries to more than 300,000 acres of cropland. A fix could come from Proposition 3, the water bond on the November ballot, which earmarks $750 million in state taxpayer funds to repair the aqueduct and other infrastructure damaged by land subsidence.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from Eastern Sierra creeks that fed Mono Lake. Some 35 years later, an appellate court concluded the same public trust doctrine that applied in the Mono Lake case also applies to groundwater that feeds a navigable river in a picturesque corner of far Northern California. But will this latest ruling have the same impact on California water resources as the historic Mono Lake decision?
Researchers at the University of California recently highlighted a flaw in state law that may prohibit diverting streamflow to recharge groundwater. The problem is that groundwater recharge by itself is not considered a “beneficial use” under state law, and meeting that definition is a requirement to obtain a permit to divert water. Officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water rights, say the reality is not so clear-cut.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
Hemet has filed a federal lawsuit against Dow Chemical and Shell Oil seeking reimbursement for the cost of removing a cancer-causing chemical from the city’s water wells. According to its Sept. 21 suit, the contaminated wells have been tainted by TCP, a “highly toxic substance” used until the 1980s to fumigate soil where crops were grown.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gives attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource.
New for 2019: Optional Groundwater Tour (Limited Seating!)
Jump aboard the bus the next day – Feb. 8 – to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour will visit cities and farms using groundwater, examine a subsidence measuring station and provide the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. See tour highlights here.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Groundwater depletion is a big problem in parts of California. But it is not the only groundwater problem. The state also has many areas of polluted groundwater, and some places where groundwater overdraft has caused the land to subside, damaging roads, canals and other infrastructure. Near the coast, heavy groundwater pumping has caused contamination by pulling seawater underground from the ocean. But if you wanted to obtain a permit from the state to manage these problems by recharging groundwater, you could be out of luck.
Thirteen percent of Americans, some 42 million people, use a household well for their water supply. The largest clusters of people who use wells are not where you might expect. There are frequent reports of dry wells in the American West, but despite its ranch-and-frontier image, the region is the most urban in the country.
Conflicting federal court decisions over groundwater pollution liability have created what one law professor calls “a spaghetti jungle” that the Supreme Court must untangle. Since the start of the year—most recently this week—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth circuits have issued rulings that are at odds over the scope of the Clean Water Act when pollution reaches federally protected waterways via groundwater.
Stanislaus County will ask the state Supreme Court for a ruling on whether environmental review is a necessary step for a new water well. In August, a state appeals court overturned the Stanislaus Superior Court’s decision in the Protecting Our Water lawsuit, which sought an injunction against county well permit approvals.
As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds for several new water management projects, a shift is taking place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.
In increasingly dry conditions, cities from Australia and the Middle East to the American Southwest are pursuing groundwater, either as an integral piece of their future water supply or as an emergency stopgap measure. Los Angeles, looking long-term, aims to double the share of its water supply that comes from groundwater by 2040 and cut reliance on distant and shrinking sources like the Colorado River.
Monsoon storms in the desert Southwest are vital for recharging groundwater – but it now appears likely this recharge effect may be compromised by climate change. The major cities of the Southwest – Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Las Vegas – currently get most of their freshwater from the Colorado River or its tributaries. That river, however, is experiencing its 19th straight drought year, suggesting a new permanent dry state is gripping the giant watershed.
California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches. The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20 years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious world of California water.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s suit in Kern County Superior Court asserts the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted April 5 to allow the dumping to continue indefinitely despite a staff report concluding the practice contaminates local groundwater and makes it unsuitable for agricultural and municipal use.
The next two days could help determine the fate of a proposal by Cadiz Inc. to pump groundwater in the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities. … The state Assembly approved the measure in a 45-20 vote Wednesday evening. But the bill could face an uphill battle in the Senate, and the legislative session ends Friday night.
A last-minute effort to require more state oversight of a company’s plan to pump water from underneath the Mojave Desert passed a key committee Tuesday, advancing in the final days of the legislative session. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor, all urged lawmakers to pass it.
Environmentalists are mounting a last-minute bid in the final week of the California legislative session to revive a stalled effort to require more review for a project to pump more groundwater from the Mojave Desert. The project by Cadiz Inc. to sell that water to urban Southern California has been the subject of a long-running political drama.
All along the 1,250 miles of border between Texas and Mexico, hidden under hundreds of feet of soil and rock, lie more than a dozen underground aquifers—areas of permeable earth that hold water—that crisscross the national boundaries. They might be the only sources of water the region will have left when the Rio Grande, hit by a one-two punch of climate change and a booming population, inevitably dries up.
When California passed its landmark groundwater law in 2014, there was a collective “it’s about time” across the West. But even though California may have been late in issuing a robust groundwater management law, it does set a high bar in at least one key area.
Land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping has been observed in the San Joaquin Valley for decades. Increased reliance on aquifers during the last decade resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year in some parts of the region.
While subsidence was minimal in 2017 due to one of the wettest years on record, any return to dry conditions would likely set the stage for subsidence to resume as the region relies more heavily on groundwater than surface water.
Alice Peters Auditorium
Fresno, CA 93740
Ending a five-year moratorium, the Trump administration Wednesday took a first step toward opening 1.6 million acres of California public land to fracking and conventional oil drilling, triggering alarm bells among environmentalists.
California’s new groundwater management law is not a sports car. It moves more like a wagon train. The rules do not require critically overdrafted aquifers to achieve “sustainability” until 2040. But 22 years from now, once they finally get there, lives will be transformed.
Bottled water giant Crystal Geyser has been charged by a grand jury with 16 counts of violating environmental and hazardous waste laws, after the jury viewed evidence that the company improperly disposed of toxic waste, a Department of Justice press release said.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start construction by a key deadline this week — but a bill in Congress could give the company another six years to start work on the project.
Every day, millions of gallons of water flow through pipes across the Coachella Valley and pour out to nourish lawns, artificial lakes, farmlands and a total of 121 golf courses. This lush oasis in the desert owes its existence to groundwater pumped from the aquifer and an imported supply of water from the Colorado River.
Central California is slowly collapsing under its own weight as farmers suck out groundwater, emptying vast subterranean aquifers and disrupting one of the state’s key water-delivery networks. … Along 25 miles in Tulare County, the canal has sunk so far that its carrying capacity has been cut in half, according to the Sacramento Bee.
When Roberta Jaffe and her husband planted their small vineyard, one factor trumped all others: groundwater. Knowing that this isolated valley in south-central California relies on a depleted aquifer, the couple “dry farmed” their Condor’s Hope Ranch, using 5 percent or less of the water required by a conventional vineyard. … So Jaffe was alarmed when Harvard University’s endowment fund installed an 850-acre conventional vineyard just down the road in 2014 — and drilled 14 wells.
Completed during Harry Truman’s presidency, the Friant-Kern Canal has been a workhorse in California’s elaborate man-made water-delivery network. … Until now. … A proposition on the November ballot would raise billions of dollars for a variety of water projects around the state, including roughly $350 million to repair the Friant-Kern.
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation, but its authors are not who you might expect. An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
An Inland Empire water wholesaler is poised to get a boost in state funding for its effort to create a new local water supply that would provide ecological benefits in Northern California. The California Water Commission has tentatively approved nearly $207 million in Prop. 1 water bond funds for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental Water Storage/Exchange Program.
California’s premier wine-growing region has been targeted for more regulation under the state’s new groundwater law, likely resulting in new fees and limits on water extraction for the industry. The state Department of Water Resources declared in May that 14 groundwater basins across the state are at risk of overdraft, and thus should be reprioritized under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The bottom is falling out of America’s most productive farmland. Literally. Swaths of the San Joaquin Valley have sunk 28 feet — nearly three stories — since the 1920s, and some areas have dropped almost 3 feet in the past two years. Blame it on farmers’ relentless groundwater pumping.
In California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley, excessive pumping of groundwater has resulted in subsidence, damaging crucial infrastructure, including roads, bridges and water conveyance.
The many wells that nourish the farms of the Central Valley are not only pumping so much water from the ground that the land is sinking, they’re creating a dangerous vacuum where arsenic can slip in, new research shows. Scientists at Stanford University are warning if heavy groundwater pumping continues, water supplies for dozens of communities as well as billions of dollars of irrigated crops are at risk of contamination.
The town of Mammoth Lakes, in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada, is generally known for two things: epic skiing in winter, thanks to the very high elevation of its ski mountain; and volcanic activity, because the mountain is a simmering volcano. It’s normal to hike or ski around Mammoth and smell the sulfurous gases venting from gurgling magma deep under the mountain. That magma is also a rich source of geothermal power.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft. Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA scientists have tracked changes in water supplies worldwide and they’ve found that in many places humans are dramatically altering the global water map. … Their findings in a new study reveal that of the 34 “hotspots” of water change in places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds of those areas may be linked to climate change or human activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming regions.
This spring in California several orchards around Solano and nearby counties sported a new look: lush carpets of mixed grasses growing as tall as 3ft beneath the trees’ bare branches. By summer the scene will change as farmers grow and harvest their nut crops, but the work of the grasses will continue unseen. Cover cropping, an agricultural technique as old as dirt, is taking root in California.
When a contaminated aquifer in Orange County made U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s list of top-priority sites for “immediate, intense action,” the local water district was quick to highlight the announcement. But questions of political favoritism are swirling over Pruitt’s decision in December to prioritize cleaning the Orange County North Basin groundwater pollution plume beneath Anaheim and Fullerton using the federal Superfund program.
The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might receive last month. … The commission also signaled more support for a small groundwater storage proposed by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery. Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.
[Arcelia] Duarte is the owner of the Duarte Mobile Home Park near Thermal as well as one of its residents. As normal as her family’s home may appear to visitors, the park’s residents are faced with an issue most of California’s urban dwellers would struggle to fathom: Their water, which comes from a local well, is contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic and bacteria.
Battlefronts fell along party lines at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing yesterday about whether EPA should regulate pollutants that make it to surface water via groundwater. … The hearing was the first since EPA requested public comment on whether it should regulate such pollutants earlier this winter. The input is due by May 21.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Clear water gushes from a hole in the ground, forming Bonanza Spring, the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert. This rare oasis is at the center of the fight over a company’s plan to pump groundwater and sell it to California cities. Cadiz Inc. is proposing to pump an average of 16.3 billion gallons of water each year for 50 years.
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board members voted Thursday to require an oil wastewater dump site operator in McKittrick suspected of polluting nearby groundwater to install a network of wells monitoring contamination. That falls short of environmentalists’ demands for the board to shutter the operation.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A company’s controversial plan to sell groundwater from the Mojave Desert ran into new opposition as a Southern California water district voted against the proposal. The board of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District decided not to approve a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase water from the Cadiz Inc.’s proposed project.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
California is well behind the curve on groundwater regulation. With a few exceptions, groundwater extraction has never been regulated in the state or even monitored with any precision. However, a 2014 law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), at last will require groundwater basins in the state to reverse longstanding overdraft problems.
Major parts of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline are slowly sinking, a new scientific study has found, dramatically increasing the risk of billions of dollars of flooding in the coming decades as sea level rise continues due to climate change.
Followers of the ecologically dubious and largely pointless Cadiz water project in the Mojave Desert might have pricked up their ears last week at reports of a possible conflict of interest involving Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and the investment firm Apollo Global Management.
In this episode of Deeply Talks, Tara Lohan, Water Deeply’s managing editor, speaks with Philip Bachand, a water engineer and founder of the environmental engineering firm, Bachand & Associates; Daniel Mountjoy, the director of resource stewardship at Sustainable Conservation; and Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch, about recharging groundwater and the crucial role that farms can play in this important effort.
On Feb. 26, the farmers will make a pivotal decision: whether or not to tax themselves about $14 million over 30 years to build a new delivery system. Thursday, the League of Women Voters, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District and county officials will host a public meeting to explain all of this at 6 p.m. at Jackson Hall, on the Lodi Grape Festival grounds.
The Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, pumps 3 million to 5 million gallons of treated sewage a day down four wells on its property. Once underground, the water does not stay put. It seeps through porous lava rock and then flows into the Pacific Ocean, a half-mile to the southwest.
When the Water Replenishment District of Southern California located a 30-year supply trapped between the ocean and an aquifer, it was like a prospector finding gold. … A pilot project that began in 2002 proved new technology could turn brackish water into drinking water.
After extensive fieldwork, site observation and geologic mapping, a team of scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. concluded that a proposed water transfer project in a remote part of San Bernadino County desert won’t harm one of the largest wildlife water sources in the Mojave Desert.
Constellation Brands, maker of Modelo and Corona beers, finds itself in the crossfire of a bitter dispute. On one side are government officials who are vowing to see the project through; on the other, opponents determined to shut it down, saying the plant will use a large amount of water that should go to local farmers.
California’s sweeping effort to regulate groundwater extraction is still in its infancy. But many community groups are already concerned that too little is being done to involve low-income and disadvantaged residents in managing aquifers dominated by agriculture. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, adopted in 2014, was a Herculean achievement for California.
Garry Holiday grew up among the abandoned mines that dot the Navajo Nation’s red landscape, remnants of a time when uranium helped cement America’s status as a nuclear superpower and fueled its nuclear energy program. It left a toxic legacy. … Mining tainted the local groundwater.
In a quiet agricultural community in Fresno County things have been sinking for a long time. California’s Central Valley subsidence problem was discovered decades ago, right around El Nido. Now, this town is more famous for its elevation than its population because agriculture’s demand for water here has sent pumps ever deeper into the ground, causing the valley floor to sink by dozens of feet.
A 20-mile portion of one of the Valley’s largest waterways is sinking. It’s getting worse each month and while the water levels drop, the price tag rises. Earlier this year, the Friant Water Authority reported measurements that showed a nearly 3-foot drop in the Friant-Kern Canal’s elevation in some places.
Groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley – producer of half the state’s agricultural output – has averaged roughly 1.8 million acre-feet annually since the mid-1980s. Even before the start of the most recent drought in 2011, a few San Joaquin farmers recognized the dire need for sustainable water management and started individually pioneering a groundwater recharge practice that has since gained statewide traction.
The state’s water conservation districts don’t need the approval of property owners or voters to charge their customers fees to fund programs aimed at protecting groundwater, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision supporting a company’s plan to pump up to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from a Mojave Desert aquifer and build a pipeline to sell that water to Southern California cities.
Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities and counties. The lawsuit takes aim at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to build a 43-mile pipeline to transfer the water from its desert wells into the Colorado River Aqueduct so it can be sold to water districts.
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway.
Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley, farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This has caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that can never be restored. The damage by subsidence extends to the California Aqueduct, the 700-mile artificial river that conveys water from Northern California to the valley and beyond as the principal feature of the State Water Project.
The joint ground-mapping pilot project is designed to help Soquel Creek Water District and the County of Santa Cruz locate sandy soil areas to install collection basins and dry wells for easier passage for stormwater runoff to return to underground aquifers.
Fresh from gaining the long-sought federal approval for its massive desert water project, Scott Slater, Cadiz president and CEO, said it’s time for the project to “slow down” a bit. … The Cadiz project involves pumping billions of gallons of water annually from an underground aquifer in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
During California’s five-year drought, the row of ponds in the desert north of the Palm Springs often lay empty and dry. But this year, the ponds have been filled to the brim with a record amount of water from the Colorado River. The Coachella Valley’s water utilities are using the influx of imported water to chip away at the long-term problem of groundwater overdraft.
The state of California is asserting landownership rights along a proposed pipeline’s path that would help carry groundwater from a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County to Orange County and other communities.
A state commission is throwing a new hurdle in front of Cadiz Inc.’s plans to turn a remote desert valley into a lucrative water source for Southern California. In a Sept. 20 letter to Cadiz, the State Lands Commission informed the company that its proposed water pipeline crosses a strip of state-owned land and therefore requires a state lease.
If you want a new well in California, you might have to let your neighbors know how much water you plan to pump. That’s if it’s tapping a critically overused aquifer, and if a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk survives calls for a veto.
Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion hydropower project. The plant, proponents say, would help boost renewable energy use in Southern California and lower greenhouse gas emissions. But park officials fear the hydropower project could draw down local groundwater levels and harm wildlife.
California survived its historic drought, in large part by using groundwater. It was a lifeline in the Central Valley, where it was the only source of water for many farmers. California regulators are charged with protecting that groundwater, but for years they failed to do so.
Stanislaus County will try a new groundwater treatment system to keep the former Geer Road landfill from polluting the Tuolumne River and nearby wells. The county will pay a Southern California contractor $1.74 million to build the groundwater extraction and treatment equipment at the old landfill on the north side of the Tuolumne River, about a mile northeast of Hughson.
Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers, according to DWR.
The battle over plans by a Los Angeles company to sell water pumped from aquifers underneath Mojave Desert conservation areas heated up again this week when state legislation was amended to require a new round of state reviews.
The SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] is now kicking into gear as its first major deadline arrives: By June 30, counties and regional water managers must form “groundwater sustainability agencies,” or GSAs – the task forces that will eventually be responsible for developing their own sustainable groundwater use plans. Districts that fail or choose not to create a GSA will be subject to intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board.
A rush-hour delay caused by flooded tracks at the Powell Street Station in San Francisco — in the middle of summer — points up a BART issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention that overcrowded trains, finicky air-conditioning and the seemingly daily “equipment problems” command: a steady supply of subterranean water.
Vickie Mulas, a partner in her family’s Sonoma Valley dairy and vineyard operations, is no friend of regulations. … But Mulas, a member of a prominent local ranching family, relishes her role in California’s newest round of rule-making that will — in an unprecedented departure from past practice — put limits on how much water people can pump out of the ground.
A company’s vision to pump water from the Mojave Desert and sell it to thirsty Southern California cities had looked to some to be a long shot. … But a series of developments has invigorated backers of the project, which involves both federal and state jurisdictions.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ 4-year-old legal fight to assert rights to groundwater took a step forward on Wednesday as a federal judge agreed to let the lawsuit proceed while water agencies appeal an earlier ruling to the Supreme Court.
Five companies responsible for polluting the groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley have agreed to continue cleanup for another 10 years, sparing 400,000 residents higher water bills, a state agency announced Thursday.
California farmers have long been able to get permits to drill new wells in areas where groundwater levels are falling without publicly saying how much water they intend to pump. That would change under a bill approved this week by the California Senate.
The Trump administration has shown support for the project, which has been opposed by [U.S. Senator Dianne] Feinstein and several environmental groups that argue the water extraction would harm the fragile desert ecosystem.
The massive scale of California’s groundwater pumping is outlined in a study released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA and the University of Houston. The researchers conclude that California’s pending groundwater regulations remain woefully behind what is necessary to bring the state’s groundwater levels back into balance.
Land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping has been a problem for decades in the San Joaquin Valley, but an increased reliance on aquifers during the last decade has resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year in some parts of the region.
University Business Center
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.
The heavy rain and snow over the past six months in California could reverse the infamous decline of the state’s groundwater stores, but the relief may last only a season or two, according to a hydrologist with University of California, Davis, who says water agencies must find efficient ways to refill depleted aquifers.
The rain has largely stopped after one of the wettest winters in California. But as spring temperatures begin to climb and snow in the Sierra Nevada melts, the threat of flooding has communities across the Central Valley on edge. … The concerns are magnified in some areas by subsidence, a festering problem exacerbated by five years of drought in the Central Valley.
William Alley, director of science and technology at the National Groundwater Association, and Rosemarie Alley, a science writer, are the authors of High and Dry, a book that explores the world’s growing dependence on groundwater. Circle of Blue reporter Brett Walton spoke with the Alleys about the role of science in groundwater management and the knowledge that is necessary for sustaining what they call “the neglected child of the water world.”
A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the United States. Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish — or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each year.
Knee-high tufts of grass dot the streets of Hardwick, a rural neighborhood with a few dozen homes hemmed in by vineyards and walnut and almond orchards in California’s agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley.
The water spread into every corner of the fields, beckoning wading ibises and egrets as it bathed long rows of sprouting grapevines. Several inches had covered the vineyard ground for a couple of months. But rather than draining it, Don Cameron was pouring more on.
In the end, it wasn’t very controversial. Nineteen years after San Joaquin County water interests overwhelmingly rejected a water-sharing plan with rival East Bay Municipal Utility District, a similar plan earned the unanimous approval of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In a key ruling released Monday, a judge slammed the Oakdale Irrigation District for skirting state law in last year’s fallowing proposal. The district should have studied whether shipping river water elsewhere might harm local groundwater levels, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne said in a decision issued nearly 11 weeks after a one-day trial in January.
A long-running political struggle over a company’s plan to sell water from a Mojave Desert aquifer has taken a new turn with the Trump administration announcing a policy change that could facilitate the controversial water project.
It’s a race against time this spring as water roars out of Central California’s dams and rumbles its way to the lowest-lying areas of the western San Joaquin Valley, communities where land is collapsing and water channels are growing more unstable. State engineers are generating new maps to understand where water is stagnating in spots it once flowed freely, and to learn which communities are in the most danger of flooding.
The city of Vacaville is facing pressure to clean up its water supplies after an environmental group sued this week over the amount of chromium-6 in groundwater. … Vacaville is among several California cities that have been wrestling with the carcinogen since 2014, when the state adopted the nation’s first chromium-6 rules.
Mineral rights and royalty owners have filed a new lawsuit against Monterey County, challenging voter-approved Measure Z, which establishes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on oil and gas operations in the state’s fourth-largest oil-producing county. … Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and wastewater injection into aquifers will still be prohibited during the stay.
A federal appeals court sided with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians on Tuesday in a landmark water case, upholding a ruling that the tribe has federally established rights to groundwater in the Coachella Valley.
San Francisco’s famously pure High Sierra water is about to be served with a twist. Starting next month, city water officials will begin adding local groundwater to the Yosemite supplies that have satiated the area’s thirst since the 1930s and made the clean, crisp water here the envy of the nation.
Unchecked groundwater use is colliding with seesawing weather patterns to produce a new act in California’s long-running tragedy of the commons. According to NASA and European Space Agency data released on February 8, parts of the California aqueduct on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, near Avenal, sank more than two feet between 2013 and 2016 as farmers pumped records amounts of groundwater during the state’s historic drought.
As storms hit California and the Sierra Nevada snowpack keeps building after years of punishing drought, water managers on the San Joaquin Valley floor are replenishing groundwater supplies while the getting is good.
Even as California struggles with surface flooding, the state is going dry underground, triggering sinking in parts of the great San Joaquin Valley, according to a new NASA report released by the Department of Water Resources.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a letter to the California Department of Conservation expressing their concerns about a proposal to expand the boundaries of an aquifer where oil-production wastewater is being injected.
Until Donald Trump won the presidency, prospects looked bleak for Cadiz, a California company that has struggled for years to secure federal permits to transform Mojave Desert groundwater into liquid gold. With the change of administration, a new day is dawning.
For decades, California oil companies have disposed of wastewater by pumping it into aquifers that were supposed to be protected by federal law. California regulators mistakenly granted permits to do it, through a combination of poor record keeping, miscommunication and permitting errors.
While some farmers lament the release of thousands of acre-feet of water from Friant Dam, others are putting it to good use: recharging groundwater supplies. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began releasing water from Millerton Lake to make room for a deluge of storm runoff.
Amid greater scrutiny of oilfield contamination threats to California’s groundwater, state officials will hold a hearing Wednesday on a proposal to expand the aquifer area where a Livermore driller is permitted to dispose of oily wastewater.
Kern County has lost a key round in its decade-long battle with Southern California waste districts over the land application of treated human and industrial waste. Now the Board of Supervisors will have to decide whether to appeal the loss and continue the fight.